MONACO (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton snatched a dramatic pole position for Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix with an all-time circuit record lap in the final seconds to outpace Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.086 seconds.
The defending five-time champion and series leader clocked an unprecedented lap in 1min 10.166sec to end Bottas’ run of three successive poles as Mercedes, mourning the death this week of non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, produced a record-equalling 62nd front row lockout.
It was an emotional Hamilton’s second pole in Monaco and the 84th of his career as he dug deep in the final seconds to find the speed required to grab the prime grid position from his team-mate.
‘‘Whoooah!’’ shouted Hamilton on team radio. ‘‘That’s what I am talking about.’’
Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, Pierre Gasly in the second Red Bull and Kevin Magnussen for Haas.
Last year’s race winner Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for Renault ahead of Daniel Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Alex Albon in the second Toro Rosso.
‘‘This is the race that every driver dreams of, even as a kid,’’ said Hamilton.
‘‘We’ve arrived with a great car, a great battle with Valtteri and I think the desire and the will to get this pole. I’ve had to dig deeper than ever before.
‘‘We all take our cars, fast or slow, to the limit and here, at the limit, it’s like wrestling a bull. I had an oversteer moment in the Rascasse and I just held on.’’
Bottas said: ‘‘I’m disappointed. I felt after the first lap there were plenty of places to improve, but I had traffic and couldn’t get the tyres up to temperature.’’
Luckless local hero Charles Leclerc qualified 16th after a strategic muddle by Ferrari in the opening part of qualifying.
He will start one spot further up though after stewards issued three-place penalties to Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi for blocking rivals drivers during a frantic session.
After Vettel’s crash in the morning’s final free practice session, Q1 began cautiously in the warmest conditions of the weekend, the track registering 44 degrees Celsius under a hazy sun.
Mercedes, as they feared, found the conditions testing and required longer to bring their tyres alive, but were soon first and third with Bottas and Hamilton sandwiching Verstappen.
Vettel then bounced his left rear wheel off the barriers in the swimming pool complex, requiring a rapid pit-stop.